Being a parent is one of the most rewarding jobs there is, but it can also be one of the hardest. You always have your child’s best interest in mind, and you want them to be healthy. However, you’re also worried about the decision they’ll make when they encounter drugs or alcohol. This concern is understandable —and you’re certainly not alone. Every parent goes through this constant worry.
In our five-part series about preventing drug abuse in your child, we covered the elementary school, middle school, and high school years as parts one through three. Tips for Raising Drug-Free Kids – Beyond High School is the fourth in the series.
Below, you’ll learn about teaching your young adult about preventing drug use, continuing to be a role model, keeping a positive attitude and more. Let’s get started.
Teach Drug Use Prevention
Many alcohol and drug programs focus on education. They typically consist of potentially boring-to-children lectures about the different street names for widely-used drugs, the different ways people ingest them and the difference between stimulants and depressants. While education on drug-free facts like this is important and valued, it’s likely not something that will entirely persuade your child to change their behavior.
Persuasion Is More Than Facts
Prevention has a lot to do with persuasion, of course. But there needs to be a paradigm shift in how you approach prevention with your older kids who are facing the choice of whether to do drugs or not.
Parents and professionals spend too much time presenting the “facts” on drugs to their teens. Most of the teens these days already know that heavy drinking long-term can result in alcoholism or the street name for marijuana is “pot” or “weed.” This type of education can become redundant if you don’t mix it in with persuasion techniques.
What parents should be doing is persuading their kids to refuse or reduce drug use, rather than just educating them on the facts. There are different forms of persuasion too, and not all are equally useful.
It’s About What Your Young Adult Cares About
Being successful in preventing drug use also has to do with knowing what the young adult cares about. When it comes to drug education, typically it involves discussing the health consequences of doing drugs with your children. You tell them if they drink excessively, they’ll have liver failure, or if they smoke, it can lead to lung damage.
Sure, this is one form of persuasion and can help teach the consequences of drug use to your young adult in the hopes they will decide not to use. But, it leans more towards what the parents care about: that is to say – their health. And education and prevention programs that parents implement usually communicate in these terms.
Parents and educators should also try to get their kids to understand that not only does using drugs have an adverse impact on their bodies, but drugs also interfere with things they care about personally.
So, what exactly does your teen or young adult care about?
This is where things get a little challenging because not everyone cares about the same things. A good start is to have your child write out their personal goals both short and long-term. Have them contemplate what they wish to accomplish in life.
- Going to College
- Playing on the football team
- Community activities
- Working a part-time job
- Driving a car
Of course, your young adult will have their own unique goals. Ask them what they are. Then sit down with them and discuss how alcohol and drugs can interfere with their dreams. When you can instill this in your child, it may make your prevention efforts more successful.
Along with having them write down their goals, begin a conversation with them about drugs and how they can hinder their progress toward their goals.
Ask them some questions to open up the conversation such as:
- How do you think drugs could impact your future? A question like this will get your child thinking about their future and what their boundaries are around using drugs or alcohol. You’ll gain insight into what’s important for your child. If they begin crossing some of their boundaries, you’ll have a way to bring the conversation back up at another time.
- What are things important enough to you to stop you from using drugs? This question will get your child to think of good reasons why they wouldn’t want to start using drugs. It focuses on both their short and long-term goals. They’ll begin thinking about the things they want to do and how drugs will interfere with them if they started using.
Continue Being Your Child’s Role Model
Know that even though you technically do not have control of your child’s life anymore, they still look up to you for advice. What your child sees is what they learn. Your actions and attitudes shape theirs. For instance, if you like to have a few drinks, make sure you drink in moderation. Don’t ever suggest that drinking alcohol helps to handle problems.
Encourage more healthy ways to handle problems and deal with stress, such as:
- Listening to music
- Talking to a friend
- Reading a book
Ask other adult family members to be a positive influence on your teen. For instance, older siblings can be role models by engaging in positive behavior. Grandparents can help with positive reinforcement. Even if they don’t live near you, they can video chat, call on the phone or text.
You’re human. And, as a parent, you’re going to make mistakes. No parent is perfect, but you can always do a better job and should always be working on being a positive influence and setting good examples.
Maintain Open Communication With Your Child
As your child moves forward in life and goes out on their own, make sure you keep the line of communication open. Be available to them when they need you. As you’re preparing your young adult to step out into the world after high school, you can support their independence, but still give them some guidance to help them make healthy choices.
Make sure your kids know that they can turn to you when they need help or advice. Encourage them to be open with what’s going on in their lives whether it’s good or bad.
Conversation is one of your most powerful resources to connect with and protect your children. However, for tougher topics, such as drugs, knowing what to say can be challenging.
Some tips for conversations with your young adult include:
- Keep your lines of communication open to them as your child leaves home.
- Maintain a supportive relationship.
- Let them know you’re always there for help, whether they want to talk about drug use or drinking or if they’re just going through a difficult situation.
- Come from a place of love, even during difficult conversations.
- Keep an eye out for potential mental health problems. There’s a strong link between substance abuse and mental health issues, including stress, which highlights the importance of learning how to prevent drug abuse among youth.
- Balance both positive and negative reinforcement.
- Be mindful of natural situations where you can start a conversation up about the topic of alcohol and drugs. Teachable moments are everywhere and in any situation.
Although marijuana and alcohol are the most popular drugs in your child’s age range, there are other substances your teen or young adult could be exposed to, such as the nonmedical use of analgesics (painkillers), prescription stimulants and tranquilizers. When prescribed by a physician, prescription drugs are useful. However, they can be very harmful if used for reasons other than what a doctor prescribes them for.
Be There for Your Child
Your kids need to know you’re always there for them, even when they move away from home. And this means being an active parent in not only your efforts regarding alcohol and drugs — but in every aspect of their life.
They’re exposed to all types of information and situations both offline and online. Stay involved in their lives as much as you can by:
- Knowing the websites they visit. Know what social media sites they’re on and who they’re communicating with online.
- Paying attention to what music they listen to and what they watch on television.
- Monitoring all computers in your house. Don’t forget that their cell phones give them access to the internet too.
- Staying involved in their social life offline. No matter how old your child is, it’s important to stay in the know when it comes to their social life. Although you don’t have to tag along with your teen each time they go out, know where they’re going and what they’re doing.
- Being a responsible adult when their friends come over to your home. Never provide them with any alcohol or drugs. Lock up your prescription medications and alcohol and ensure friends don’t bring drugs or alcohol over with them when they visit.
Help Your Child Without Enabling
When you’re always trying to fix your child’s problems in a way that interferes with their responsibility and growth, you’re enabling. If you immediately rush to their rescue and remove consequences, they don’t have the opportunity or a reason to learn a valuable lesson.
If you notice that you’re constantly helping your child and it’s becoming a pattern of “unhealthy” rescuing, you’re enabling. You’re not helping your young adult by trying to “save” them each time they are in distress. It’s only making things worse for them in the long run.
By continuously coming to your child’s rescue, you’re taking away their independence and not teaching them responsibility. Although you want to be there for them, you need to be thoughtful about how you do so. Know when to draw the line between bailing them out and allowing them to stand on their own two feet.
When your adult child is overly dependent, it can be hard for you to set limits. You may feel emotionally depleted and drained. On the one hand, you want your child to be secure and happy on their own, yet you continue to worry about not helping them enough to get them there. This situation is not easy.
Many parents are going through the same thing and continue to rescue their kids from their problems. Although helping your child may feel like the right thing to do, the message you’re giving your child is that they’re not competent enough to make it on their own. If you’re in this type of situation, you can help yourself to stop enabling your child and be more mindful of it by considering these questions:
- Do you feel like you’re living problem after problem with your child?
- Does your adult child demand or feel entitled to things that were once a privilege such as rent money or car privileges?
- Are you worried about hurting your child?
- Are you sacrificing too much to help your child?
- Do you feel used, resentful, burdened or burnt out?
Saying yes to more than one of these questions may indicate you’re guilty of enabling your child. By all means, show your older teen love, but at the same time, hold them accountable for their behavior. Stop trying to rescue your child from these situations. By doing so, you’re not encouraging responsibility and independence.
If your child already has issues with drug or alcohol addiction and they continue to remain dependent on you, you’re allowing them to stay in this situation. Although it may be difficult to do, setting boundaries is essential. Consider saying something like this the next time your addicted child comes to you for help: “I’m here to support you and listen. However, I also think that figuring this out on your own with professional help is the best thing for you.”
Continue Educating Your Child but in a Subtle Way
As your child gets older, they may start questioning the life lessons you’ve been trying to instill in them. Social media, the internet and television have a significant influence on them. Young adults watch celebrity role models closely and listen to their peers. Because of this, they aren’t sure which information they should believe because they’re getting mixed messages.
Messages like “just say no” are no longer as effective as perhaps they once were. You need to give your child solid reasons why they should avoid drugs and alcohol. Give them evidence and facts, but don’t forget to implement the persuasion techniques above as well. Also, if you want your child to listen to you, you have to know what you’re talking about.
Substance abuse education is an essential part of helping prevent drug abuse.
Educational information can include:
- Addiction warning signs
- Factual data on the definition of substance abuse
- Information on how specific drugs and alcohol affect the body and mind
- How people abuse substances and why
- Consequences that follow drug use and addiction (i.e., mental and physical health, relationships, family, etc.)
Again, educate yourself first so you can relay this information to your child. Substance abuse information can come from online research, attending classes and group meetings. Teaching your child about drugs can help keep them off of them, particularly ones that they feel are harmless but are still dangerous and addictive. Helping your child understand the consequences of using drugs can prevent an issue from arising.
Knowledge is a powerful thing. When you have accurate information on drugs and share it with your child, they’ll be more inclined to make an informed and fact-based decision. When you’re educating your child, be sure to cover all drugs no matter what their perceived risk is.
While cocaine, opioids and meth are referred to as “hard drugs” with severe consequences, the “minor drugs” like alcohol and marijuana can still be harmful and addictive. Your child should be aware of how damaging alcohol and drugs are to their mind, body and relationships.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
When talking to your adult child, make your messages clear and consistent, but keep it positive.
Do’s and Don’ts of Having Positive Conversations with Kids
- Give them an explanation of why you don’t want them using alcohol or drugs. For instance, explain how alcohol and drugs interfere with young adults’ memory, motor skills, concentration and can lead to poor performance at school or on the job. Let them know you don’t want negative outcomes for them.
- Explain to them the dangers of alcohol and drug use with explanations that are age-appropriate.
- Assure your child they can be honest with you. Be available to your child at any time if they want to talk.
- Believe in yourself and your ability to help prevent your child from using drugs and alcohol.
- Don’t think all your conversations with your child are going to be perfect.
- Don’t show anger or resentment even if your child says something that disappoints you.
- Don’t just make demands about “no drug use” rules in the home. Educate your child about risks and consequences should they choose to try drugs. Education helps your child make informed decisions.
- Don’t answer questions that you’re unsure of by making stuff up. Instead, let them know you’re not sure but will find the answer so you both can learn together.
Common Drugs Your Child Might Be Exposed To
Now that you are armed with tips to help raise your young adult drug-free, let’s go over the common types of illegal and legal substances that your child may have exposure to.
Each day, over 3,200 individuals who are under 18 years old smoke their first cigarette.
Young adults sometimes abuse common household substances to get high by inhaling their fumes through their mouth or nose or from a bag or a balloon. They may use a rag soaked with the substance (huffing) or sniff the products right from the dispenser or container. These inhalants include:
- Spray paint
- Nail polish remover
- Felt tip markers
- Cleaning fluid
Young adults may take prescription drugs without a prescription. This can result in a substance use disorder or overdose.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications
OTC medications, such as cold or cough medications that contain dextromethorphan (DXM), are not typically problematic when individuals use them as directed, but some young adults use them to get high.
Opioids and Heroin
Opioid abuse is unfortunately rather common. Examples of opioids include Vicodin (hydrocodone), Codeine and OxyContin. Heroin is made from morphine and is an illegal opioid. Many people turn to heroin because it’s cheaper than opioids.
Meth speeds your body system up because it’s a stimulant. Crystal meth is an illegally manufactured version of a prescription drug like Desoxyn for ADHD and obesity. It’s combined and cooked with OTC drugs in meth labs.
Having the Conversation and Taking the Next Step
Although you may feel uncomfortable or find it hard to talk with your child about alcohol and drugs, it’s imperative for you to teach them about the dangers of these substances and be clear about what you expect if they’re exposed to drugs. These conversations you have with your young adult about drugs should be frequent and not a one-time event.
When you take the time to sit down with your child to talk to them and listen to what they have to say, it shows them you care about them. It also gives you insight into their lives. Just remember, you play a significant role in preventing your child from trying and using drugs and alcohol.
If you have questions about substance abuse and addiction rehab for young adults, contact 12 Keys Rehab.